Friday, September 16, 2016

Whose Life Really Matters to You?
 "Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It's not I love you for this or that reason, not I love you if you love me. It's love for no reason, love without an object." - Ram Dass

     Jesus was a Jew, one of God’s chosen people.  He was a Rabbi, a teacher of the Law.  He was a healer, imbued by the Spirit of God. He was a prophet, one who shines a light on the system and breaks open the status quo in order to see God in a new and bigger way. And all of these labels carried cultural expectations of what the Jewish people understood about who God was…and just as important who they were as a people group – a tribe. And all Jews DID agree on one thing…they were the “in” group with God and everyone else were outsiders. So there’s us and there’s them.  And the Jews saw the Messiah figure (another label for Jesus) as a King who would unite Israel under one God and of course cast everyone else out who didn’t belong or matter. 

     But the walls were built not only around Jerusalem…but also around their tribe… yet what Jesus was most concerned with, was the walls that God’s people built around their hearts. Throughout Luke’s Gospel this year we heard about enemy Roman soldiers who were faithful. We heard about the hated Samaritans and their goodness, we heard about the sinners witnessing God’s presence in the world...

     Jesus is comforting the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable – the “in group”.  Jesus is breaking down the walls that have been so carefully constructed to ensure that God’s people remained pure and apart. Jesus made sure to be “present” to everyone… especially those at the very margins of His society: to show them that Samaritan lives mattered, Lepers lives mattered, Women and Children’s lives mattered, even Roman’s lives mattered to God…all these people groups at the time of Jesus didn’t matter to the chosen people of God!  I wonder if anything has changed today?

     Isn’t that what we claim to be…the people of God? Jesus is saying there is no “outside” group to God! That we are all a part of a larger family where everyone belongs, everyone is worthy, everyone matters and everyone is loved. 

     Ultimately you get to choose what groups we belong to…but if you wish to follow Jesus then you are required to be Christ’s light in the world…to shine forth hope, love and grace into the dark recesses of the world where those at the margins are told by the world that they do not belong.

     What is the state of your heart?  That’s what all this comes down to.  Is your heart self-serving or focused on God and one another?  Is your heart closed or open?  What motivates you fear or love?

     In the end it’s not about slogans and clich├ęs’ - whose lives matter more or less.  I think deep down every Christian knows that ALL lives matter to God…and that is very good news indeed, especially to the who have been marginalized. But what Jesus came to ask God’s Chosen People was “what lives matter to you?”  The Christian response should always be a “one on one” affair of the heart…where one person shows another person - that your life matters to me. That is when Christ’s love is poured out into the world. Imagine what the world would be like if folks instead wore shirts that said YOUR LIFE MATTERS TO ME! Imagine if we treated ALL those we came in contact with as children of God. For God there is no outside group! You are all children of God and Jesus is challenging us to start acting like it.

     So may you have eyes to see those that the world has made invisible, and may you have the courage to be present with those who are hurting. It will cost you something, but that very act will gain you everything! For in seeking the lost, you will indeed be found!

Your faithful servant, carmen

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

God Talk Adult Formation 2016/2017
The Heart of Discipleship

Come see & experience God's story and have the Bible and your faith come alive!

            The Heart of Discipleship is excited to present a Christian adult formation series of webinars that will enrich your understanding of the Bible as well as strengthen your relationship with God and others.

            Is God Relevant in your life? The Deacon Carmen J. Viola will be pointing us towards self-discovery and a bigger way of seeing and experiencing God. Let those who have eyes see! Carmen’s webinars will use visuals from his new book as well as images from his trips to Israel to make biblical concepts come alive.  Come join us.  If you sign up before Sept 30th you will also receive the PDF copy of The Heart of Discipleship for free.

            It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” During the Middle Ages, churches used vivid imagery, including stained glass windows and paintings, to tell God’s story. Prior to the modern era, most people could not read or write so they relied on pictures and religious interpreters to understand the Bible. Pictures, for many of us, are still a powerful way to share stories and understand biblical context.

            The book by Carmen Viola is beautifully illustrated and involves you in the ongoing conversation and narrative of what it means to follow Jesus. The art in this book depict stories from the Bible to illuminate God's word. The images can be viewed by a child one level, while an adult can view the same image and be led into a more complex understanding of the Creator. Often seeing things from a different point of view can give us fresh insight into God's plan for our world and our lives. These stories of the ancient world come alive in pictures and show all of us why God’s word is still important and relevant today.

            What if you could see the world as God sees it – not only with an open mind, but with an open heart? Come! Discover what God has been trying to show us all along. God will meet you wherever and however you are…Right Here, Right Now!

            We invite you to participate in this series of Free webinars and on-line discussions. The Webinars will “go-live” every Monday evening beginning on Sept 26th through on-line invitation.  The time is from 8PM to 9PM.  To sign up please email us at  You will be given an invitation link and the syllabus for the year as well as the free color PDF of the book. Missed seminars can be seen on YouTube at The Heart of Discipleship channel.

Grace & Peace!